Review – NETGEAR Orbi Wi-Fi System & NETGEAR 16-Port SOHO Gigabit Ethernet Switch (Part one of a two-part story)

The ever evolving Wi-Fi world and our dependence on Wi-Fi in almost every aspect of modern life is pretty amazing once you step back and consider the implications. The standards, speeds, hardware, and compatibility keep changing, so how does a user stay current? The NETGEAR Orbi Wi-Fi System is one of the most popular choices for a robust Wi-Fi environment for homes, and coupled with hard-wired NETGEAR 16-Port SOHO Gigabit Ethernet Switches, one can create a robust, fast, and seamless user experience. This is part one of a two-part story.

Like many folks, we have a mix of hard-wired Ethernet and Wi-Fi in our home. When we bought the house, I spent a chunk of time running Cat5E Ethernet cables to every room, terminating in the attic, or near the router. When we started reviewing NAS devices it became clear I’d have to go up in the attic and start putting RJ45 plugs on the cables that we hadn’t been using. Personally, I find getting plugs right on a cable a tedious and frustrating experience. But, once the work was done, the work was done. A wired network is safe, secure, fast, and easy to use.

We did notice that some network speeds weren’t what we expected, which led us to wonder about our existing switches, which spanned more then a decade, and represented different levels of technology, features, and advancements. So, we upgraded all the switches to NETGEAR SOHO Gigabit Ethernet Switches, either the 16 Port GS316, or the 8 Port GS308 models. Both are used extensively in the field, and feature all metal construction, a 3-year warranty, and 24/7 basic tech support for the first 90 days. The features include:

  • Choice of Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet connectivity
  • Energy-efficient technology for power savings
  • Auto-MDI/MDIX eliminates the need for crossover cables
  • Non-blocking switching architecture for maximum throughput at wire speed
  • Auto-negotiation for automatic connection at the highest common speed between switch and an end device
  • Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) option available for powering IP Security Cameras, VoIP phones, wireless access points, and other PD-powered devices
  • Fanless design for silent operation
  • Desktop, wall-mountable or rack-mountable

These are truly Plug-and-Play units, and for many SOHO uses or consumers, they are a robust choice. We are fans of hard-wired connections. They are the fastest connection, secure from Wi-Fi hacking, and rarely require any specialized settings on your computer to use. But, we found our speeds while improved, weren’t as improved as much we expected. Enter the Foto4easy Telephone RJ45 RJ11 RJ12 Cat5e Cat6 USB UTP Network LAN Cable Tester Test Tool, which was $7.97, so really cheap! So cheap in fact that we bought two in case one didn’t work, which according to reviews was a distinct possibility! But, our two units both worked fine. You will find the exact units at different prices and names, but they are all the same. Just look for the best deal.

What the tester revealed was that out of all our cables, one was wired incorrectly, so, a few minutes later a newly crimped RJ45 plug solved that problem. If you are terminating your own cables, we would suggest a tool like this to confirm all is well, as it’s very easy to screw up the order of the wires into the FJ45 connector. This helped speed up the network, but it’s still not as fast as we would like. The next step is a managed switch, since ours are basically all daisy-chained together, which originally wasn’t bad, since there weren’t that many devices, but over the past several years that has changed dramatically, and performance is taking a hit.

What devices are using a wired connection in our network?

  • Pioneer Home Theater AVR receiver
  • Apple TV
  • Samsung 4K TV
  • Oppo Sonic DAC
  • Oppo BD-205 Blu-ray Player
  • Seagate NAS Pro
  • SiliconDust HD HomeRun TV Tuner
  • Multiple Computers
  • Internet Radio
  • Other NAS devices
  • Oppo Sonica Speakers
  • Game console
  • Smaller NAS devices
  • And more.

Over 26 devices in all, not including connections to each switch, so what an 8-port switch once handled isn’t possible. You might say, “Hey, just use Wi-Fi” which makes a lot of sense, but Wi-Fi routers are often flaky about placement, don’t maintain their coverage as expected, are subject to interference, and aren’t as fast. So, if possible a wired network makes a lot of sense, where feasible. They also offer POE (Power-over-Ethernet) models in case you need a powered connection, such as required by some IP security cameras, VOIP phones, etc.

How to improve the speed of the network? The next step would be stepping up to Managed Switches which allow you to program the switches for maximum speed and efficiency and in a setting which demands some daisy-chaining, the difference can be dramatic. Look for an article in the future detailing installing a managed switch, and migrating from an un-managed switch.

The NETGEAR 16-Port & 8-Port SOHO Gigabit Ethernet Switches come highly recommended. Used throughout industry, they are tough, fast; sport a slew of features, with great error correction. And… we love the all metal construction and longer warranty. If you need a switch, these are great units.

For Wi-Fi the world is more complicated. If you step back at look at how most people integrate Wi-Fi into their lives, it starts with the ISP provided Modem/Router. We have Verizon FIOS, so we were supplied with a Verizon Fios Gateway AC1750 Wi-Fi (G1100) Modem, which has proven to be stable and consistent, however it’s Wi-Fi coverage hasn’t really worked that well in our home, which was solidly built in 1957, with a steel I-Beam supporting the center of the house from a full basement that impacts coverage. It’s two stories, with brick and mortar construction, so while not large it’s a challenge for a single Wi-Fi router to manage, lots of dense materials for a radio signal to punch through.

Enter the NETGEAR Orbi Wi-Fi System, which promised to provide a fast robust throughout the house from the basement to the attic. How did it work? Read part two to find out!

Harris Fogel, with editorial input from Ken Kramar. Posted 11/1/2017

For more information on the NETGEAR 16-Port & 8-Port SOHO Gigabit Ethernet Switches visit:

For more information on the NETGEAR ORBI Wi-Fi System visit:

For more information on the Foto4easy Telephone RJ45 RJ11 RJ12 Cat5e Cat6 USB UTP Network LAN Cable Tester Test Tool visit: